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Occasionally Yours: Episode Four
Published May 7, 2011


Written By

spladoum

Storyteller
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But she'll bring out the best
and the worst you can be
Blame it all on yourself ...

- "Always A Woman (To Me)," Billy Joel

Part Four! Thank you all, as always, for taking time to read/comment. And as always, if you're reading this and NOT reading RatRaceRob's "Welcome to the Childhood," for shame, for shame! Read them both or suffer wrath!

But she'll bring out the best
and the worst you can be
Blame it all on yourself ...

- "Always A Woman (To Me)," Billy Joel

Part Four! Thank you all, as always, for taking time to read/comment. And as always, if you're reading this and NOT reading RatRaceRob's "Welcome to the Childhood," for shame, for shame! Read them both or suffer wrath!
"Star Type Talent Agency, Viv Miller's office. This is Louanne.

"Oh hi there, Ms. Miller. Yes, Gwen's checked in. She's at the meet-and-greet session at the Firks Pavilion in the museum.

"... what's that? Oh, um. Yes, actually. Rosalind's with her. Yeah, I'm glad too, Rosalind will keep her out of trouble.

"... yes, ma'am. I'll be here if you need me. You too. Have a good evening."
"It's crazy," Gwen muttered as she and Rosalind entered the museum's ground floor. "I pass by this place every day and I've never been inside. Have you?"

"Mm-hmm."

Rosalind didn't bother to mention that the seascapes in the stairwell were her photography. Might have been too much for Gwen to handle right now. She was in a piteously bad mood. She and Holden had never made up that fight, and she had almost refused to attend tonight's event.
The problem was that if Gwen didn't attend, there'd be hell to pay. Far too many people had spent far too much money to come see her in person for the entire symposium to be ruined by a temper tantrum. Viv Miller had spent two lunch hours in a row and countless phone calls trying to get her to see reason.

Finally Gwen gave in ... but not before throwing out a final ultimatum. She would only go if Rosalind came with her, and no amount of scolding, cajoling, or ordering would make her budge.
So Rosalind rushed to the consignment shop ten minutes before they closed on Wednesday, stuffed herself into the first dress she found in her size and prayed that it wouldn't be too expensive. Fortunately, it was entirely reasonable.

And though she really, really, REALLY should have been at home working on a lesson plan for the second quarter of classes, somehow she was driving Gwen around to all of the different pre-symposium events, if not outright attending them herself.
Rosalind had tried bribing Gwen with a set of keys to the little convertible to no avail. Gwen took the keys, tossed them into her jewelry box and called Rosalind to come pick her up. She clearly had no intention of using them. She expected to be driven around.

So Rosalind drove her around.
The Firks Pavilion was just on the other side of the double doors.

Gwen heaved out a final, sulky-sounding sigh before she entered.
The moment she stepped into that spotlight, the applause began and she became a different person.

She was radiant. She had a lovely, genuine smile on her face. She was gracious to the people who were lined up and shaking with excitement to meet her, happily signed autographs, and posed for myriads of photos. A very well-trained pet. Her parents would have been proud if they'd bothered to show.

Poor Gwen.
Rosalind moved out of camera's range and hid near the buffet. She didn't need to be here, and she didn't WANT to be here. But neither did she want to go home to the empty house. Connor was in Egypt on assignment, and he wasn't entirely sure when he'd be home. He'd gotten a call in the dead of night, he'd woken her up and told her to go into the guest room to sleep, and by the time she woke up again both he and her motorcycle were gone. There was an explanatory note taped to the refrigerator to let her know that he had taken it, not anyone else, and that he'd call when he could. And that was it. He'd been gone for nearly a week now with no word. And without him there, she wandered through the rooms, looking at the shadows and fretting over the house's noises. It was probably just as well that she was here. She waited patiently as Gwen was announced alongside the other featured musicians. The emcee directed the crowd to partake of the food, which was her cue to get the hell of the way. She hid behind one of the angular columns, trying not to be in any photos or anyone's line of sight. But she failed, as usual.

"You quit hiding from me!" Gwen said irritably as she marched over with a glass full of shrimp cocktail. "Why are you all the way over here?"
"Because that's the only way for me not to be stalked by shutterbugs." Right on cue, a flashbulb popped and Rosalind winced. "Ow, jerkface. Do you get extra money for your shots if you blind me?"

She glared at the photographer until the woman slunk away.
Gwen swallowed a shrimp quickly. "Where's Connor?"

"He's in Egypt."

"What's he doing there?"

"His job," Rosalind said, dryly.

"And how long will he be there?"

"Until he's done."
Rosalind looked around at the crowd without seeing a single familiar face. "Is this a good turnout?"

"Yeah," Gwen sighed. "Friday's gonna be crazy! You're coming, right?"

"Gwen, I can't--"

"Whaddya mean 'you can't?' I NEED you!"

"Aren't your parents coming?"

"Well, yes, but--"
"Gwen Glover! Oh my god! Oh, oh! Can I get a photograph? ... oh, this is an HONOR!"

And Rosalind found herself crowded out yet again as a fresh group of admirers swarmed around Gwen. She could see the strain in Gwen's smile and the unshed tears in her bright eyes. But all everyone else could see was their idol, and like it or not, Gwen had to deal with it. it was part of the price of fame.
** brzzt brzzt **

"Mmmph," Gwen mumbled through a mouthful of her own hair. She sat up and rubbed her eyes. Was it still dark outside? ... no, the blinds were down and she could hardly open her eyes because she had collapsed on the bed wearing a formal dress and a full pancake of makeup. Damn it, she'd ruined her pillowcases.

** brzzt brzzt **

Where was that phone? It sounded like it was stuck in the underside of her dress.

** brzzt brzzt **

... oh, it was.
** brzzt --

"Hello?"

"Hey there," a man's voice said in a tone that inexplicably reminded her of syrup. Slick, sweet. And since she hated syrup, repulsive. "How ya doin', Gwennie?"

"Gwennie?" she repeated in a tired voice. "Wait a minute, who is this?"

"Oh, don't play that game. You know who this is. And what the hell is this I hear about you having a performance and not inviting me? I had to hear about it from your folks! Not cool, sugarbuns. Completely not cool."
Oh no. It was too damn early in the morning to have to deal with Thomas Pippendorfer-Blofonzki!

"Tommy--"

"So you're playing tonight? I'll have to book a charter and get down there to see you."
There was a pause.

"... you're still skinny, right?"

"No," she said, too quickly. "Actually, I've gained about twenty-four pounds. It went straight to my thighs."

There was another pause, in which she tried not to laugh imagining his face.
"Some of it's on my butt too," she added when he didn't say anything else.

"... you know, I think I hear my dad calling me. Maybe I'd better go see what he wants. Talk to you later?"
He hung up before she could answer, and she smirked.

The only time that she could remember getting along with Tommy was at their senior prom, when they had begun the evening with a cruise in his father's vintage Porsche, gone to an expensive restaurant that overlooked the bay, taken lovely photographs in a professional's studio and gone to the dance where Tommy had gotten injured with a flying elbow—someone was a little TOO happy to be there!

Eventually his broken nose healed and their primary mutual reminder of the night was their photos. As her parents constantly reminded her, he still had his. But she had destroyed hers long ago. They had become part of the kindling for a winter evening's fire.
Just as quickly, her face fell again.

It was Friday.

Symposium Day.

Ugh.

"Gwen," the person beside her mumbled. Rosalind. Who had also fallen asleep in her formal dress. "What time is it?"

But Gwen hadn't heard, she was already on her way up to the front of the house for coffee.
By the time she returned with two hot mugs, Rosalind was wide awake and stumbling into her shoes. She was smiling. "Thanks, but no thanks. Connor just called. He came home to an empty house and wanted to know where I was. Gotta go." She stopped and looked apologetic. "Um. I really don't think I'm going to be able to make it tonight."

"What?"
"Gwen, I'm sorry." She edged towards the door. "I put a whole week of paperwork on hold for this. I can't put it off any longer. I've got to submit grades and get together new lesson plans and look over the schedule and a bunch of other stuff that I haven't even touched because I've been driving you all over the place. I need this weekend to myself, okay?"

She felt a twinge of guilt as Gwen slumped in visible disappointment. "I'd be there if I could. You know that."

"Yeah," Gwen sighed, "I've heard that one before."
"Star Type Talent Agency, Viv Miller's office. This is Louanne.

"Oh hi there, Gwen--oh! Err. One moment?

"... Ms. Miller, Gwen Glover's on the line."
"I'll just bet she is. Put her through and take a coffee break. I don't want to burn your ears."

"Yes ma'am."

The line clicked over to Viv's speakerphone.
"Good morning, Gwen. Before we get started, I don't want to hear anything about 'canceling tonight.' Now. Feel free to talk." When there was no talking, Viv rolled her eyes. "Gwen, for heaven's sake. You're headlining a symposium. There are people performing at this event who already have actual CAREERS in music who aren't good enough to headline. There are people performing at this event who would kill for the talent that you take for granted. With a bare minimum of effort, you'd be selling out concert halls. And somehow, this just makes you kick and scream like a baby. Explain to me just what is so terrible about a little hard work?"

"You don't understand! It's not the work!"
"Gwen, listen. I invest so much time in you that I don't have enough left for the other clients who pay me just as much and deserve for me to work for them just as hard. Whatever is going on between you and your folks is your business. Not mine. I'm not going to be the rope in the tug-of-war you have going on. So if this attitude of yours is some sort of passive-aggressive way of telling Mommy and Daddy that you wish you'd gone into nuclear physics, please be mature enough to have a conversation with them and leave me out of it."
She hit the END button and walked to the window to stare out at the clouds and try to calm down.

Little white lie--Gwen's parents actually paid her 2.5 times her average rate, and they did so because she had tried to drop Gwen as a client more than once. She did not like clients like Gwen--the ones who were so talented that they had to be begged and coddled and babied along. She much preferred to put her muscle behind hard-working prospects who actually needed the help.

But as the old saying went, money talked. Oh yes it did.
She left the office and went downtown for a bite to eat, passing a bright orange truck as she drove. "Thanks for giving me a ride home, Holden," River said as she got out of his bright orange truck. "Want to come in for a few minutes?"

Holden always gave River a ride home--her house was right in his route, and she always invited him in. He'd never accepted.

"Sure."
She walked him around the old mansion, showing him the grounds and all of the primary rooms, ending by taking him upstairs to her room and showing him a crib where a little girl sat. The moment she saw River, she squealed, "Mommy!"

"Mommy," Holden repeated.

"Mommy," River confirmed.
She held the little girl close. "This is Lydia, Holden. I thought you should know, before you became too serious."

"If you're trying to scare me away, this won't work at all." River made a face at her daughter and poked her in the ribs, provoking giggles. "Though I guess I should ask where's her dad? She's still pretty young, is he still around?"

"Not around."

"But you--"

River shook her head. "He and I are done with a capital D. I have good reasons. You'll just have to trust me on that."

"I trust you. I just--"
He shut up as Lydia wriggled into his arms and reached for his beard. She looked into his eyes seriously and proclaimed, "Lunch!"

"She knows when it's time," River said, smiling. "Let's go, muffin."
Lydia painted her high chair with half of her PB&J while River dished up two bowls of tomato soup to go along with the grilled cheese sandwiches.

She and Holden tried to have a conversation, but after he'd been hit in the head with Lydia's water bottle enough times they mutually gave up.
As he helped wash the dishes, River gave him more than one meaningful look. "See, you could be in for a lot of this if you stick around. You might want to go to the restroom before you leave. You've got oatmeal in your sideburns."
"What do you mean, 'you're not coming?' But I ... well, yes, but ... But Mother, you SAID ..." Harley was out front, nominally reading the paper, actually listening to the latest variation of this phone call. He couldn't help BUT hear it; these walls weren't particularly thick and Gwen had been having some version of it all day long.

He thought about the last class he'd taken, Intro to Family Counseling, and wondered how it might apply here. Gwen's mother obviously had some expectation for her daughter, and Gwen had something different in mind. They may have spoken to each other directly about those expectations, or perhaps not. The argument going on behind the bedroom door suggested that they had not.
"... so you just wanted me to call and TELL you that I was performing? You never intended to come at all?" Yeah, that was a "not."

He flinched at the thump against the wall, probably made by a cellphone sailing through the air. Then there was the sound of the bathroom door slamming shut and the squeak of the shower's pipes pumping out water as fast as possible. Probably to drown out the sobbing. It wasn't working.

He could have come tonight, but Gwen hadn't thought to invite him.
He stood up and sighed. He'd liked living here. Gwen and Holden had left him alone, hadn't harassed him about rent even when he was a few days late. He'd gotten a lot of studying done and was on track to make an A this term. This had actually been an enjoyable house to stay in. But he never stayed in the same place longer than two months. Personal quirk.

He knocked on the bathroom door before he left. "Hey, Gwen. I gotta go out."

No answer.
Gwen only got out of the shower once she had drained the entire hot water tank and the water raining down on her head was stone-cold. She shivered as she slowly dried off.

She was still shaking as she dressed herself and carefully twisted her damp hair into a complicated style.
Her phone was ringing.

"Hello."

"I'm outside. Are you ready?"

Viv Miller. Gwen swallowed and nodded before remembering that Viv couldn't see her. "Yeah, be right out."

They rode to the theatre in silence. Viv walked Gwen to the backstage entrance and stopped. She wasn't coming, either. Gwen was to go on alone.
"You look beautiful, sweetie. Now get in there and play, you'll be fine. ... don't look at me like that, Gwen. You're way too used to being supported by other people. A big part of being a success at anything is being able to go on even when no one else is around to notice. If you intend to be a professional musician, you're going to have to get used to failing AND succeeding alone. Now go."

She turned around once she realized that Gwen hadn't moved.

"Gwen, GET IN THERE."
She only walked away after the heavy door shut. Alone in the spotlight.

The sharp tones poured from the piano and filled the silent room. Her fingers flew over the keys. Not a single sour note.

Perfect.
The audience applauded wildly as she made her formal bow.

"Wonderful job, Ms. Glover," the stage manager whispered as she exited to stage left. "We have a seat reserved for you. I'll have one of the ushers escort you there as soon as you're ready."

"Just need a drink," Gwen sighed.

"Merlot? Chardonnay?"

"Either."
She found her own way onto the standing room area. A young singer was on stage, singing a complicated aria from a French opera, but Gwen didn't hear more than five notes. She had seen a very familiar head of messy brown hair a short distance away, and she began to move through the dark, whispering "Excuse me" every few steps. The frozen smile she had worn before was nothing compared to the huge grin she had on now. Holden had come after all! "There you are!" she said triumphantly and squeezed his hand. "How'd you get off work?"

"I asked."

Her smile froze again. That wasn't Holden's voice. Or Holden's face. Or Holden's hand that she was holding. Her eyes went round.
"Hi, Gwen," the stranger murmured. He squeezed her hand in return and went back to paying attention to the song that Gwen wasn't hearing.

Oh no.

She took a quick peek at his name tag.

'Jesse Simanski.'

... oh no.

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#11CaRpeDiem_90May 9, 2011

Perfect ! \:\)

#12emilymarie0201May 9, 2011

Why 'oh no to Jesse'!? He's so cute! That'd make an adorable couple! Can't leave us hanging forever, when is this date gonna happen!? Soon I hope! Driving me nuts! \:P Amazing chapter like always! Can't wait to read the rest! \:wub\:

#13fabrizioammolloMay 9, 2011

Lovely story, I can't wait for the most intriguing developtments of the story \;\)! Excellent screenshots and congrats on being featured!!! \:wub\:

#14martoeleMay 9, 2011

I would say.... poor Jesse... It seems that he hasn't got any chance.... He'd better go back to Windy.... \:\(  Anyway.... the great happening will take place very soon.... \:rah\:  Congratulations on the feature and I really am waiting to see what happens in the next part. \:cool\:

#15MangioMay 10, 2011


Wonderful chapter, congrats on the feature \:rah\: Was extremely surprised when Jesse made his appearance. Finally Gwen won't seem so alone or nervous or something else.. she really needs to talk to her parents.. I feel bad for Windy - now her hopes and dreams are crushed. \:\( Can't wait for more \:wub\: The screenshots were dazzling \;\)

#16YrS92May 15, 2011

I have been slacking here but what a great chapter \:rah\: Poor Gwen, so confused and Holden seems to be getting real serious with River... \:\( And Jesse! Where can this lead to? \:D Loved it, can't wait for more \:wub\: \:rah\:

#17MinraedMay 15, 2011

brilliant! I'm so glad to finally have a chance to catch up reading these! Lovin' it! \:wub\:

#18mogan44May 15, 2011

I want more more more!  I kept trying to click past page 50.  Finally, I've been waiting for this meeting for a looooooooooooong time!  Congrats on the feature!

#19orlovVIPMay 16, 2011

I wondered at the end of the last chapter of "Childhood. . ." whether Jesse would find Gwen looking longingly toward another, while he was looking at her. . .and you answered the question brilliantly!! You have successfully built up an incredible tension. . .but, poor Gwen, if she ever hopes to have what Rosalind and Connor have, she's going to have to learn how to let go of the people she loves and trust that things will be as they are supposed to be. . .and as for River. . .I think she might be looking for a new baby-daddy, but I could be reading her wrong. . .ummmmmm, I wonder........\:wub\: Love it!  THANKS!!!!!

#20ShelleyBJun 22, 2011

\:rah\:  Gwen, THE STAR! What a fabulous way to bring Jesse into the story--with Gwen thinking he was Holden!! Got to get moving; more reading to do!!

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